'Assassin's Creed: Utopia' blends city building with turn-based combat

Sick of being a one-man army? Assassin's Creed Utopia offers something new.

Rather than attempt to recreate the gameplay of the console versions of Assassin's Creed, GREE's upcoming mobile installment, Assassin's Creed: Utopia, goes another way.

Playable at Tokyo Game Show, Assassin's Creed: Utopia blends two disperate forms of gameplay. The primary mode of the game seems to be city building, as the show floor demo began with a familiar, isometric view of what appeared to be a village from the Middle Ages. Gold icons hovering over some of the houses was a telltale indication that taxes can be collected after enough real-world time has passed, but the demo ceased to go further in depth with what sort of features the city building will offer.

Once the gold was collected, a large "Battle!" icon was visible on the screen, which led me to the second form of gameplay that Utopia relies on: turn-based combat.

Some of GREE's social games have been accused of not requiring skill, instead demanding just a pulse and the ability to tap the screen to progress through the game. Utopia goes a bit deeper, allowing players to select a handful of units to bring into battle, even going so far as to arrange them into a formation that will offer the best advantage. For example, using the nine by nine grid, you can place archers in the back row, polearms in the front and axes in the middle, offering you the best defensive and offensive combination.

Once the combat starts, it's actually somewhat reminiscent of tactical strategy games like Fire Emblem or Advance Wars. Individual units have their own ranges, and can attack multiple units at once, as indicated by glowing squares on the ground. Unit speed seems to determine the order in which the battle plays out, so picking more nimble units will allow all of them to attack before your enemy has a chance to.

We've already seen a handful of mobile Assassin's Creed games try to capture the console-style gameplay on a touch screen, with mixed results. GREE's new attempt seems the right idea, picking genres more suited to the platform. It's scheduled for a worldwide release sometime this winter.

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